The controversy reached the African Union (AU) Summit organised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sharon Bar-Li, Deputy Director General for Africa at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, had to be escorted out of the AU Assembly by security guards, according to the Hebrew Foreign Ministry.
The African summit has been discussing very important issues for the African continent, such as the drought in the Horn of Africa and the violence and terrorist attacks in the Sahel and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. And in this scenario, the Israeli delegation was attending under international observer status.
A video posted on social media showed the hasty and controversial departure of Sharon Bar-li and members of the Israeli delegation along with security guards, and Israel has already pointed the finger at Iran and its long shadow when it comes to interfering in the affairs of other nations. The Walla news site reported the incident, in which security guards approached the Israeli delegation during the opening ceremony and demanded that members of the delegation leave. The video showed the Israelis, led by the Israeli Foreign Ministry's deputy director general for Africa, Sharon Bar-Li, leaving after several minutes of discussion.
According to the AFP news agency and other media, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman described the incident as "serious" and stressed that Sharon Bar-Li had her accreditation to attend the summit. "Israel views seriously the incident in which Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li was removed from the AU hall despite her status as an accredited observer with access credentials," said ministry spokesman Lior Hayat.
The same source pointed directly to the Islamic Republic of Iran and other nations noted for controversial behaviour on the international stage, such as Algeria and South Africa, which in this case are said to have been influenced by Iran, according to the spokesman. "It is sad to see that the African Union has been taken hostage by a small number of extremist countries like Algeria and South Africa, driven by hatred and controlled by Iran," Hayat was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel and the AFP news agency. "We call on African countries to oppose these actions that damage the organisation of the African Union itself and the entire continent," he said.
However, another version was offered by the AU. As AFP also reported, an AU official said that the woman who was urged to leave had not been personally invited and that she used a non-transferable invitation issued to Israel's ambassador to the AU, Aleli Admasu.
Israel was originally granted international observer status for AU meetings in 2021. However, there are disputes over this status within the 55-member African Union.
Asked about Israel's accusations that South Africa and Algeria were behind the action, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesman Vincent Magwenya told AFP at the summit: "They should substantiate their claim".
The relationship with the Israeli state continues to be a contentious one, despite the fact that the African Union is an organisation that is known for always seeking consensus. In this case, however, important member states, such as South Africa, have strongly opposed the 2021 decision of Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, to accept Israel's accreditation.